Capital & Ideology Part Four

Chapter 14 Borders & Property: The Construction of Equality

Voting Patterns over time

Education used to be associated with the right, and over time it has reversed. The young generally have always voted left.

“It is striking to note that turnout rates are linked to inequality. Turnout remains high among socially advantaged voters but declines among less advantaged voters… We find a similar gap if we use level of education, occupation, or wealth. Whatever the criterion used, we find that abstention is higher among less advantaged groups.”

The collapse of the working-class vote for socialist, communist, and social-democratic parties in Europe and for the Democrats in the United States and Labour in the United Kingdom is a well-known phenomenon that exists in all Western countries. The most obvious explanation for this is that workers increasingly feel that the parties that were supposed to represent them have been less and less successful at doing so.

There is a chicken or the egg debate about who abandoned who. Did left parties abandon the working class or vice versa? Evidence points to the former. Regardless the effect is a vicious cycle.

Racism: a tool for the right, an excuse for the left.

“There is no denying that in recent decades, nativist, racist, and anti-immigrant themes have been exploited to the hilt by parties of the traditional right.”

“It is obviously very convenient for the elites to explain everything by stigmatizing the supposed racism of the less advantaged. However racism is not more “natural” among the least favored classes than among the welloffs. If the less advantaged truly supported anti-immigrant movements, their turnout should be at a peak today. The fact that it is very low clearly shows that many less advantaged voters are not satisfied with the choices presented to them… less advantaged classes feel abandoned by the parties of the center-left. Indeed, nativist discourse has fastened on this sense of abandonment in the hope of winning over these disillusioned voters.”

What predicts Political Orientation?

Property ownership appears to be an almost irresistible determinant of political attitude: the wealthiest asset holders virtually never vote for the left, while those who do not own anything seldom vote for the right. The relation between voting and wealth grew weaker after 1970 but still remains much stronger than the relation between voting and income.”

“There is no socioeconomic variable that yields a vote as lopsided as the 80–90 percent Muslim vote for parties of the left… the main explanation for why 80–90 percent of Muslims vote for parties of the left is fairly clear: Muslim voters see the parties of the right as extremely hostile toward them.”

Piketty’s Political Compass.

“The state of political-ideological conflict in France in the late 2010s illustrates to perfection the indeterminacy and profound instability of the system. Briefly stated, the electorate has fractured into four approximately equal parts: an ideological bloc that can be characterized as egalitarian internationalist, another that can be described as inegalitarian internationalist, a third that can be called inegalitarian nativist, and finally, an egalitarian nativist bloc.”

Progressive taxes have a tendency to be avoided due to combined accusations of impracticality & outdated ideological concerns over growth.

“In reality the only logically plausible justification for exempting financial assets is of an entirely different nature: it is based on the idea that financial assets cannot be taxed because they can magically disappear and thus avoid the tax collector… This belief, profoundly nihilistic and pessimistic as to our collective capacity to create just rules and institutions”

“Recall that heavy progressive taxes were often levied on large concentrations of financial wealth in the twentieth century — for example, in Germany, Japan, and other countries after World War II; this alleviated public debt and created space for investment in the future. And it was done without the benefit of today’s information technology. At a time when rising inequality and rapid climate change threaten the entire planet, to say that financial assets cannot be taxed because their owners cannot be forced to comply with the law is both unconscionable and a sign of historical ignorance.”

Chapter 15 Brahmin Left: New Euro-American Cleavages

“The 2016 presidential election showed the risk that any political party runs if it becomes too blatantly identified as the party of the winners of globalization. It then becomes the target of anti-elitist ideologies of all kinds: in the United States in 2016, this allowed Donald Trump to deploy what one might call the nativist merchant ideology against the Democrats.”

Democratic Party Through The Years.

“New economic and social policies enacted under the New Deal benefited poor blacks as well as poor whites. But Roosevelt continued to rely on segregationist Democrats in the South, where many blacks were denied the right to vote. The first post-election surveys conducted after the presidential elections of 1948, 1952, 1956, and 1960 showed that black voters in the North were slightly more likely to vote for Democrats than for Republicans. It was not until the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson administrations of the 1960s that the Democrats, partly against their will and under pressure from African American civil rights activists, wedded the cause of civil rights and won the massive support of the black electorate. In all presidential elections from 1964 to 2016, roughly 90 percent of blacks have voted for the Democratic candidate. We even find peaks above 95 percent in 1964 and 1968, in the heat of the battle over civil rights, as well as in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected for the first time. Thus, the Democratic Party, which had been the party of slavery until the 1860s and then the party of racial segregation until the 1960s, became the preferred party of the black minority.”

Republican Party Through The Years

The Republican Party, having been the party that freed the slaves, became in the 1960s the last refuge of those who had a hard time accepting the end of segregation and the growing ethnic and racial diversity of the United States. In the wake of George Wallace’s fruitless third-party run in 1968, southern Democrats who supported segregation began a slow migration to the Republican Party. There is no doubt that this “racist” vote (or “nativist” vote, to employ a more neutral term) played an important role in most subsequent Republican victories, especially Richard Nixon’s in 1968 and 1972, Ronald Reagan’s in 1980 and 1984, and Trump’s in 2016.”

“Many segregationist Democrats eventually left the party and joined the Republicans: for example, Strom Thurmond, who served as a Democratic senator from South Carolina from 1954 to 1967 and then as a Republican from 1964 to 2003. A great advocate of the cause of states’ rights (that is, the right of the southern states to continue to practice segregation and more generally not to enforce federal laws and executive orders deemed too favorable to blacks and other minorities), Thurmond symbolized the transfer of these issues from the Democratic Party (which had been their standard bearer from the early nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth centuries) to the Republicans… Thurmond ran for president as a dissident segregationist Democrat under the banner of the ephemeral ‘States’ Rights Democratic Party’ (commonly known as ‘Dixiecrats’).”

Southern Strategy

“Since Nixon, Republican candidates have resorted to more subtle, coded attacks on social policies alleged to lavish money on the African American population. It was common, for instance, to attack ‘welfare queens,’ code for ‘single black mothers.’ This term was used by Ronald Reagan in the 1976 Republican primaries and then again in the 1980 campaign. Reagan was a fervent supporter of Goldwater in the 1964 campaign, during which he launched his political career by speaking on behalf of the Republican candidate. Reagan also opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which he attacked as unnecessarily humiliating to southerners and excessively intrusive. Broadly speaking, exploitation of racial issues played an important role in the movement leading to the triumph of the “conservative revolution” in the 1980s. The new conservative ideology that developed around Goldwater in 1964, Nixon in 1972, and Reagan in 1980 was based on both virulent anticommunism and strident opposition to the New Deal and to the growing power of the federal government and its social policies. Those social policies were charged with encouraging the alleged laziness of people of color (a canard endlessly repeated since the abolition of slavery). The money spent on the modest welfare state that the United States had established in the New Deal and New Frontier eras was said to be wasteful and intrusive and above all a diversion from the more important demands of the Cold War and national security, which the ‘socialistic’ Democrats were accused of neglecting, while Republicans promised to restore American greatness.”

“The Republicans’ skill in exploiting racial issues and above all in exploiting the fear of loss of status among disadvantaged whites surely explains part of their electoral success. In 1972, when McGovern proposed a federal minimum income to be paid for by an increase in the progressivity of the inheritance tax, Nixon supporters whispered that he was proposing yet another form of welfare for African Americans. Similarly, one reason for hostility to Obama’s healthcare reform, the 2010 Affordable Care Act (popularly known as Obamacare), was that whites did not want to pay for health insurance for minorities. In general, the race factor has often been cited (rightly) among the structural reasons why social and fiscal solidarity are weaker in the United States than in Europe and why the United States has no equivalent to the European welfare state. But it would be a mistake to reduce everything to the race factor, which cannot explain why we find an almost identical reversal of the educational cleavage on both sides of the Atlantic. If Democrats are now seen as serving the interests of the highly educated rather than the disadvantaged, it is above all because they never came up with an appropriate response to the conservative revolution of the 1980s.”

From Solidarity to Meritocracy

“The Democratic Party, like the parties of the electoral left in France, changed its priorities. Improving the lot of the disadvantaged ceased to be its main focus. Instead, it turned its attention primarily to serving the interests of the winners in the educational competition.”

This shift in priorities parallels the central thesis of Thomas Frank’s Listen Liberal.

From the turn of the twentieth century until the 1950s, the ambitions of the Democratic Party were strongly egalitarian, not only in tax policy but also with respect to education. Its goal was to ensure that everyone in every age cohort would receive not just a primary but also a secondary education. On this and other social and economic issues, the Democrats seemed to be clearly less elitist and more concerned with the disadvantaged (and ultimately with the prosperity of the country) than the Republicans. Between 1950–1970 and 1990–2010, that perception was totally transformed. The Democratic Party became the party of the educated in a country where the university system is highly stratified and inegalitarian and the disadvantaged have virtually no chance of gaining admission to the most selective colleges and universities.”

Reaganomics, The New Center.

“From the vantage point of 2019, the effects of Reagan’s reforms seem quite dubious. Growth of per capita national income fell by half in the three decades following Reagan’s term (compared with the previous three or four decades). Since the goal of the reforms was to boost productivity and growth, this can hardly be counted a satisfactory outcome. In addition, inequality skyrocketed, so much so that the bottom 50 percent of the income distribution has seen no income growth since the early 1980s, which is totally unprecedented in US history (and fairly uncommon for any country in peacetime). And yet the Democratic presidents who followed Reagan, Bill Clinton (1992–2000) and Barack Obama (2008–2016), never made any real attempt to revise the narrative or reverse the policies of the 1980s… the Clinton and Obama administrations basically validated and perpetuated the basic thrust of policy under Reagan. This may be because both Democratic presidents, who lacked the hindsight we have today, were partly convinced by the Reagan narrative. But it may also be that acceptance of the new fiscal and social agenda was partly due to the transformation of the Democratic electorate and to a political and strategic choice to rely more heavily on the party’s new and highly educated supporters, who may have found the turn toward less redistributive policies personally advantageous. In other words, the ‘Brahmin left,’ which is what the Democratic Party had become by the period 1990–2010, basically shared common interests with the ‘merchant right’ that had ruled under Reagan and George H. W. Bush”

“Several recent developments suggest that the phase of US politics that began with Reagan’s election in 1980 is about to end. First, the 2008 financial crisis showed that deregulation had gone too far. Second, growing awareness of the extent of the increase of inequality since 2000 and of wage stagnation since 1980 has gradually increased people’s willingness to reevaluate the Reagan turn. Both of these factors have helped to open up political and economic debate in the United States”


The Labor Party was considered too radical for John Maynard Keynes in his time. It’s still more associated with the working class than the US democrats or the socialist votes in France, despite having followed a similar trajectory.

“Higher-income voters voted more heavily for Tony Blair’s New Labour in the period 1997–2005 than they had voted for Labour previously… Just as the Clinton (1992–2000) and Obama (2008–2016) administrations had validated and perpetuated the Reagan reforms of the 1980s, New Labour governments in the period 1997–2010 largely validated and perpetuated the fiscal reforms of the Thatcher era”

Chapter 16 Social Nativism: The Postcolonial Identitarian Trap

“For many years the mere existence of a communist countermodel put pressure on capitalist elites and political parties that had long been hostile to redistribution. But it also limited the redistributive ambitions of the social-democratic parties, which were de facto integrated into the anticommunist camp

Conditions for Social Nativism

“It would be quite wrong to think of the development of social nativism as a specifically East European phenomenon without implications for Western Europe or the rest of the world. Eastern Europe should rather be seen as a laboratory where conditions were perfect for the combination of two ingredients that we also find in only slightly less extreme forms elsewhere. Together, these two factors give rise to social nativism: first, a strong sense of postcommunist and anti-universalist disillusionment leading to extreme identitarian withdrawal, and second, a global (or European) economy that prevents the establishment of coordinated, effective, and nonviolent policies of social redistribution…

Solving Tax Competition via Social Federalism.

“The most natural way to escape the social-nativist trap would be to develop social federalism in one form or another. International cooperation and political integration can achieve social justice and redistribute wealth by democratic means. Unfortunately, such a harmonious and nonviolent reform of European institutions is not the most likely outcome.”

Piketty and Ha Joon Chang seem to share a healthy skepticism of antidemocratic political economic institutions.

“Since at least the eighteenth century and the age of Atlantic Revolutions we have known that the power to levy taxes is the quintessential parliamentary power. Setting tax rules, deciding who and what can be taxed and how much, requires free and open public debate under the watchful eye of citizens and journalists. All shades of opinion in every country need to be fully represented. By its very nature, a council of finance ministers cannot satisfy these requirements.”

The status quo is easily naturalized as a mixture of desirable and inevitable.

The real obstacle is neither legal or institutional; it is primarily political and ideological. The central question is whether the countries that are suffering most from tax competition — chiefly large countries such as France, Germany, Italy, and Spain — consider the issue important enough to justify a proactive strategy that might include punitive sanctions against states that refuse to cooperate (which might require a unilateral exit from existing treaties). To date, the approach taken by most governments and parties, including socialist and social-democratic parties of one stripe or another, has been to regard tax competition as a problem, to be sure, but a problem that unfortunately cannot be solved as long as Luxembourg, Ireland, and all other countries refuse to give up their veto power.”

Countries don’t exist in a vacuum.

If Europe were to turn in earnest toward social federalism, or if the United States were to return to the steeply progressive tax system it so successfully applied in the past (as more and more Democrats are advocating), then the debate in India and elsewhere would likely take a different turn. By the same token, if the rich countries continue to undercut one another in a race to the bottom on taxes, it will be that much more difficult for a coalition like that of the SP-BSP to persuade the Indian public, given the business community’s strong opposition to the wealth tax and its role in financing the parties and the media. In that case, the BJP will likely take an even harder line toward Muslims.


“From 2002 on, PT governments focused their efforts on reducing poverty, specifically through the social transfer program known as Bolsa Familia. The income of Brazilians in lower-income groups, particularly in the poorest regions of the country, rose sharply, which made Bolsa Familia and PT very popular among farm workers, poor peasants, domestic servants, low-paid service and construction workers, and so on… these redistributive policies, in conjunction with the widening of the class cleavage, drove traditional Brazilian elites to seek ways to regain control of the situation. This desire led to the impeachment and removal of Rousseff in 2016 and then to the election of Bolsonaro in 2018. Bolsonaro portrays himself as the leader who will put an end to the country’s drift toward socialism. He does not hide his sympathy for the military dictatorship or his zeal for restoring the social order.”

Piketty blames the PT’s failures on their inability to banish preexisting corruption and their inability to adjust Brazil’s regressive tax system.

“These policy shortcomings stem not only from doctrinal and ideological limitations but also from the absence of an adequate parliamentary majority. Whether in Brazil, Europe, or the United States, it is impossible to reduce inequality as much as one would like without also transforming the political, institutional, and electoral regimes.”

“The cases of India and Brazil show that identity cleavages need not take precedence over class cleavages. In both countries, disadvantaged classes were able to overcome differences of origin and identity in order to join forces in political coalitions built around seeking more redistributive policies. Everything depends on equipping groups of different origins and identities with the institutional, social, and political tools they need to recognize that what unites them outweighs what divides them.”

Chapter 17 Elements for a Participatory Socialism for the Twenty-First Century

What is a just society? For the purposes of this book, I propose the following imperfect definition. A just society is one that allows all of its members access to the widest possible range of fundamental goods. Fundamental goods include education, health, the right to vote, and more generally to participate as fully as possible in the various forms of social, cultural, economic, civic, and political life. A just society organizes socioeconomic relations, property rights, and the distribution of income and wealth in such a way as to allow its least advantaged members to enjoy the highest possible life conditions. A just society in no way requires absolute uniformity or equality. To the extent that income and wealth inequalities are the result of different aspirations and distinct life choices or permit improvement of the standard of living and expansion of the opportunities available to the disadvantaged, they may be considered just. But this must be demonstrated, not assumed, and this argument cannot be invoked to justify any degree of inequality whatsoever, as it too often is.


“The proposals I examine here derive from the democratic socialist tradition, notably in the emphasis I place on transcending private ownership and involving workers and their representatives in corporate governance (a practice that has already played an important role in German and Nordic social democracy). I prefer to speak of ‘participatory socialism’ to emphasize the goal of participation and decentralization and to sharply distinguish this project from the hypercentralized state socialism that was tried in the twentieth century in the Soviet Union and other communist states (and is still widely practiced in the Chinese public sector). I also envision a central role for the educational system and emphasize the themes of temporary ownership and progressive taxation (bearing in mind that progressive taxes played an important role in British and American progressivism and were widely debated though never implemented during the French Revolution). In view of the largely positive results of democratic socialism and social democracy in the twentieth century, especially in Western Europe, I think that the word “socialism” still deserves to be used in the twenty-first century to evoke that tradition even as we seek to move beyond it. And move beyond it we must if we are to overcome the most glaring deficiencies of the social-democratic response of the past four decades. In any case, the substance of the proposals we will discuss matters more than any label one might attach to them.”

Social Ownership

“Systems for sharing voting rights within firms have existed in Germanic and Nordic Europe since the late 1940s and early 1950s. Workers’ representatives hold half the seats on boards of directors in German companies and a third of the seats in Sweden (including small business in the Swedish case), regardless of whether they own any capital. These so-called co-management (or codetermination) arrangements were the result of hard-fought battles waged by unions and their political allies. The struggle began in the late nineteenth century. The balance of power began to shift after World War I and changed decisively after World War II. Substantial changes in the law went hand in hand with major constitutional innovations. Specifically, the German constitutions of 1919 and 1949 adopted a social definition of the rights of ownership, which took into account the general interest and the good of the community. Property rights ceased to be held sacred. Though shareholders initially fought these changes tooth and nail, the new rules have now been in force for more than half a century and enjoy widespread public approval. All available evidence shows that co-management has been a great success. It has encouraged greater worker involvement in shaping the long-term strategies of employers and counterbalanced the often harmful short-term focus of shareholders and financial interests.”

Countries should experiment and learn from each other.

“There are many ways to improve on co-management as it currently exists so that social ownership and corporate power sharing can contribute to the goal of transcending capitalism.”

Promoting Circulation of Capital

“Once one accepts the idea that private property will continue to play a role in a just society, especially in small and medium firms, it becomes essential to find institutional arrangements that will prevent unlimited concentration of ownership which does not serve the general interest, regardless of the reasons for such concentration. In this respect, the lessons of history are quite clear: the extreme concentration of wealth that we observe in nearly all societies… did not serve the general interest at all. The clearest proof of this assertion is that the very significant reduction of inequality that followed the shocks and political-ideological changes of the period 1914–1945 did not inhibit economic development. The concentration of wealth was significantly lower after World War II… yet growth accelerated Whatever the wealthy of the Belle Époque (1880–1914) may have thought to the contrary, extreme inequality was not the necessary price of prosperity and industrial development. Indeed, all signs are that the excessive concentration of wealth exacerbated social and nationalist tensions while blocking the social and educational investments that made the balanced postwar development model possible.”

Progressive Wealth Taxation

“Inheritance and income taxes alone are not enough; they need to be complemented by a progressive annual tax on wealth, which I see as the central tool for achieving true circulation of capital.”

The inheritance tax is by its very nature not a good tool for taxing newly amassed fortunes. The annual wealth tax is better suited to the task, especially in view of today’s longer life expectancy. Note, moreover, that current wealth taxes (such as the property or real estate tax), for all their limitations, have always generated more revenues than inheritance taxes, yet they are less unpopular. Indeed, it is striking to see how unpopular inheritance taxes are in all surveys, while property and income taxes are relatively well tolerated… taxpayers would prefer to pay an annual tax on the order of 1–2 percent of the value of their property over a period of decades rather than having to pay 20– 30 percent when they pass their estate on to their heirs.”

The Limits of Agrarian Reform

Limited diffusion of wealth implies that the bottom 50 percent have minimal opportunity to participate in economic life by creating and running a business. This is not the ideal of participation that a just society should strive to achieve. Many attempts have been made to diffuse wealth more broadly, including agrarian reform intended to break up large farms of hundreds or thousands of acres to allow more modest farmers to work their own land and reap the fruits thereof instead of paying rent to landlords.”

“Agrarian reform has thus played a significant role in diffusing wealth in a variety of contexts. Yet if faces a number of structural problems. First, there is no obvious reason why wealth redistribution should be limited to property in land (other than simplicity, especially in largely rural societies). In practice, different forms of capital are complementary, and the hyperconcentration of other assets (such as equipment, tools, warehouses, offices, buildings, cash, and financial assets of all kinds) poses similar problems to the concentration of landed wealth. In particular, it leads to hyperconcentration of economic power in the hands of a few. Furthermore, agrarian reformers tend to assume that it will suffice to redistribute property once and for all, after which economic development will proceed harmoniously forever after. Historical experience shows, however, that extreme inequality of wealth tends to reproduce itself in other forms as the agrarian societies of the past give way to societies based on industrial and financial wealth and real estate. Wealth can become reconcentrated for many reasons, including economic upheavals that benefit a minority (such as profitable privatizations or technological revolutions) and various cumulative mechanisms that allow the largest initial stakes to grow more rapidly than smaller fortunes.”

Piketty advocates for agrarian reform except it’s permanent and doesn’t just apply to land. (AKA wealth taxation.)

“If one truly wants to diffuse wealth so as to allow the bottom 50 percent to acquire significant assets and participate fully in economic and social life, it is therefore essential to generalize and transform agrarian reform into a permanent process affecting the whole panoply of private capital. The most logical was to proceed would be to establish a capital endowment to be given to each young adult (at age 25, say), financed by a progressive tax on private wealth. By design, such a system would diffuse wealth at the base while limiting concentration at the summit.”

“Progressive property and inheritance taxes proposed here apply to overall wealth — that is, the total value of real estate and business and financial assets (net of debt) held or received by a given individual, without exception. Similarly, the progressive income tax should apply to total income, including income from both labor (wages, pensions, nonwage income, etc.) and capital (dividends, interest, profits, rents, etc.)”

You Didn’t Build That.

“The idea that strictly private property exists and that certain people have an inviolable natural right to it cannot withstand analysis. The accumulation of wealth is always the fruit of a social process, which depends, among other things, on public infrastructures (such as legal, fiscal, and educational systems), the social division of labor, and the knowledge accumulated by humanity over centuries. Under such conditions, it is perfectly logical that people who have accumulated large amounts of wealth should return a fraction of it to the community every year: ownership thus becomes temporary rather than permanent. Ultimately, the only real argument against this logic is the ‘Pandora’s box argument’ to which I have alluded several times: namely, that any challenge to private property will inevitably unleash uncontrollable chaos so that it is better never to open the box. But the experience of the twentieth century showed that this argument is bogus: not only are steeply progressive taxes compatible with rapid growth; more than that, they are an important component of a developmental strategy based on relatively equal access to education and an overall reduction in inequality.”

Basic Income

One should avoid looking at the basic income as a sort of miraculous solution that would make all these other institutions unnecessary. In the past, the idea of a basic income was sometimes instrumentalized as a form of “payment in full” of all social obligations and invoked to justify cuts to other social programs. Hence it is important to think of the basic income as one component of a more ambitious package, which should include progressive taxes on wealth and income, a universal capital endowment, and an ambitious social state.”

Carbon Taxes

“As I said earlier, along with rising inequality, global warming is the greatest challenge the planet faces today. There are several reasons to believe that these two challenges are intimately related and can be resolved only if dealt with simultaneously. First, carbon emissions are strongly concentrated among a small group of people, primarily individuals with high incomes and large fortunes living in the wealthiest countries in the world (especially in the United States). Second, the magnitude of the lifestyle changes required to cope with the climate crisis is so great that it is hard to imagine how to make those changes socially and politically acceptable without establishing stringent and verifiable norms of justice. In other words, it is hard to see why the lower and middle classes in the rich countries would be willing to make a major effort to curtail emissions if they feel that the upper class is free to go on living and emitting greenhouse gases as before.”

“The inequality reduction measures I discussed earlier, including a sharp increase in the progressivity of taxes on high incomes and large fortunes, are therefore a necessary condition for combating climate change. They are not a sufficient condition, however. Among the other tools that have been widely discussed is a tax on carbon emissions. Several conditions have to be met, however, for such a solution to become viable. First, the carbon tax must not be seen as the only approach to dealing with the problem. Often, the most effective way to reduce emissions is to establish norms; prohibit certain practices; and agree on strict standards for automobile emissions, heating equipment, building insulation, and so on.”

“Second, no carbon tax will be fully accepted and effective unless all of the revenue it generates is used to compensate lower- and middle-class households affected by the tax and to pay for the transition to renewable sources of energy. The most natural way to do this would be to integrate the carbon tax into the progressive income tax”

Where and how exactly to tax carbon is open to discussion, but solutions must not exacerbate inequality and ideally should reduce it.

“The method used in France in 2017–2018 consists in increasing carbon taxes on people of modest means to pay for tax cuts for the rich, leading to the so-called Yellow Vests uprising and the breakdown of the whole French carbon tax system. This is the method to avoid at all costs”

Educational Justice

Emancipation through education and diffusion of knowledge must be at the heart of any project to build a just society and participatory socialism. History shows that economic development and human progress depend on education and not on the sacralization of inequality and property.”

Greater transparency with regard to how funding is distributed is required.

“The truth is that there is a great deal of hypocrisy in this area. In France and many other countries, extra funding is supposedly earmarked for socially disadvantaged neighborhoods and schools. In fact, as we saw earlier, it is the socially advantaged schools that benefit from the most experienced, best trained, and highest paid teachers, and this clearly counts for more than the meager extra funds provided to the novice and contract teachers who work in the disadvantaged schools”

Vouchers for a more Participatory Democracy

Piketty advocates for a voucher system to improve campaign finance and make democracies more direct and participatory.

“The logic of democratic equality vouchers could also be applied to issues other than political financing. Indeed, vouchers could replace the existing system of tax deductions for charitable contributions, which in reality is just another way of subsidizing the cultural and philanthropic preferences of the rich. One could start with the sums currently lost to tax deductions and benefits of various kinds and reallocate those amounts in the form of vouchers distributed to each taxpayer. What organizations and foundations in which sectors would be eligible to receive these vouchers? Candidates might include health, culture, the fight against poverty, education, the media, and so on”

“The spirit of the democratic equality voucher is rather to make parliamentary democracy more dynamic and participatory by encouraging all citizens, regardless of their social background or financial means, to participate regularly in the renewal of political movements and parties. They can thus shape new ideas and platforms, which can then become the subject of deliberations and decisions by elected assemblies.”

Global Social Federalism

“One of the most obvious contradictions of the current system is that the free circulation of goods and capital is organized in such a way that it significantly limits the ability of states to choose their fiscal and social policies. In other words, current international rules do not establish the neutral framework they purport to create but rather compel countries to adopt certain policies and directly restrict national sovereignty. More specifically, we saw earlier that the agreements of the 1980s that liberalized capital flows included no mechanism for fiscal cooperation or automatic transmission of information about cross-border asset flows and the identity of asset owners.”

Jason Hickel in his book, The Divide discusses the issue at length here.(Ctrl+f “WTO”)

“The current ideology of globalization, which first developed in the 1980s, is in crisis and entering a transitional phase. The frustrations created by rising inequality have little by little made the lower and middle classes of the rich countries wary of international integration and unlimited economic liberalism. The resulting tensions have contributed to the emergence of nationalist and identitarian movements, which could unleash unpredictable challenges to the current trade regime. Nationalist ideology could (and probably will) intensify competition between states, leading to further fiscal and social dumping at the expense of rival states while encouraging authoritarian and anti-immigrant policies at home so as to unite the native-born population against its supposed foreign enemies… the only way to overcome these contradictions is to move toward a true participatory and internationalist socialism based on social-federalist political structures and a new cooperative organization of the world economy. Given the magnitude of the challenges, I have tried to outline solutions that could gradually make progress toward that goal possible. These proposals are not intended to answer every question. Their only purpose is to show that human societies have yet to exhaust their capacity to imagine new ideological and institutional solutions.”

At this point we are 99% done. I am going to take a few days to review, and then I will post a summary of his conclusion (which is very short) as well as my final review.

I might edit previous sections to see if I can abridge them some more. My original aspiration was to get the whole book to under an hour by Medium’s estimation, but that seems unattainable at this point.

Oh yeah I hit a hundred followers recently so thanks for that.



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